Leading housing chief to retire after seventeen successful years

Incommunities Group Chief Executive, Geraldine Howley is getting ready to step down at the end of the month after nearly two decades leading the West Yorkshire housing association.

It follows Geraldine’s decision to retire and her leaving comes as the Group gets ready to mark 18 successful years in business.

Her long career started as a temporary housing receptionist with Bradford Council, based at Jacob’s Well in the late 1970s, before Geraldine become a housing officer covering the Manchester Road blocks.

From looking after a patch of 1,600 properties, Geraldine progressed with the Council gaining expertise in different areas before becoming the local authority’s Director of Housing.

Fast forward to 2003 and Geraldine led the new BCHT Group set up with the stock transfer – voted for by Council tenants – of over 26,000 homes.

Gradually, an unwieldy structure involving six area subsidiaries was streamlined by Geraldine and her team and the group was rebranded to create Incommunities in 2008.

She became Chair of the Northern Housing Consortium in 2005 leading until 2008, overseeing some key changes in the membership organisation that represents and supports social housing providers in the North.

Her leadership has been marked by building a ‘can do’ culture which has focused the minds of everyone on improving people’s lives and their neighbourhoods.

Since the successful achievement of Decent Homes Standard in 2010, she has overseen the delivery of multi million pound improvements to local homes which has transformed the neighbourhoods in which Incommunities operates.

In 2013 she led the review of the company’s office accommodation around the district and the acquisition of its headquarters at The Quays, Shipley.

Geraldine has overseen the growth of Incommunities through mergers, stock acquisitions and successful restructures. In 2015, Huddersfield-based BME housing association, Sadeh Lok joined the Group.

In 2019, she played a vitally important role in the refinancing of Incommunities with a successful £250 million bond issue and securing a Standard and Poors A+ credit rating.

Geraldine has also overseen the delivery of over 1100 new affordable homes across Bradford, the Aire Valley, Wharfedale and beyond. The group now has homes in West, South and North Yorkshire.

In 2020 she led Incommunities’ response to the Covid lockdown and has also played a key partnership role in the district’s handling of the pandemic.

Incommunities Chair, Jan Ormondroyd praised Geraldine’s leadership: “Geraldine has successfully built Incommunities into a strong, forward looking organisation and leaves us with a strong platform to achieve our strategic growth ambitions to 2040.

“Everyone from the board, management and staff would like to wish her well as she moves onto exciting new challenges in her life.”

Tracy Harrison, Chief Executive of the Northern Housing Consortium added: “Geraldine has had a career in housing than many would aspire to.

“She has led with integrity, intent and insight and has had a positive impact on many people’s lives through her work.  She’s always been a staunch supporter of the Northern Housing Consortium, and whilst we’ll miss her being in her ‘day job’, I’m delighted that we’ll continue to work with her through her involvement in the GEMS programme that NHC support.

“We wish her a happy and healthy retirement.”

Geraldine Howley said “Looking back, it’s sometimes been a steep learning curve from my first steps as a housing officer to managing one of the biggest stock transfer at the time.

“As our 18th birthday approaches I feel very proud to have played my part in the growth of Incommunities and been supported by such a great executive team, board and skilled and dedicated colleagues. It’s been an amazing journey.

“I’ve loved my time at Incommunities and delivering our vision of improving people’s lives has always been my guiding principle as its CEO.

“I am leaving the organisation in great shape and wish my successor Rachael Dennis and everyone the very best for the future.

“Now I am really excited about the next stage in my career.”

Geraldine is widely respected in the housing sector and a personal highlight was being elected President of the Chartered Institute of Housing in 2015-16, having served Vice-President in the previous year.

She is looking forward to continuing as Chair of the Chartered Institute of Housing Governing Board.

In 2016, Geraldine was made an honorary doctorate by the University of Bradford for her outstanding contribution to housing and a year later was awarded an OBE for her services to housing, young people and the local community.

She is passionate about encouraging more young people to build rewarding careers in housing and will continue her close involvement with the GEM Programme which she co-founded in 2009. Geraldine has chaired the programme for a number of years and is being appointed a Director. She is excited to see the programme develop further and bring her leadership skills and extensive knowledge.

Geraldine has also signed up to take a Level 7 Institute of Leadership & Management qualification and develop her coaching and mentoring skills.

There is little chance of Geraldine taking a ‘step back’ as she looks forward to joining national social housing borrowing vehicle, MORhomes in April as a non-executive director.